Mobile Storytelling and the Requirement of Polish

The medium of mobile storytelling is wreathing with potential. The medium bears similarities to other ways of storytelling we discussed such as virtual reality or ergodic literature. All of these implement a level of immersion. Virtual reality makes us feel like we are in the world of the story, while ergodic literature gives us meaningful decisions to drive the story. Mobile storytelling, however, gives the reader a degree of reality not found in the other. It is unique in its ability to transform ordinary space into a meaningful place.

Given this synopsis of mobile storytelling, I was initially excited to participate in this new experience, but my peers and I were very unimpressed by 7scenes. The app fails in almost every principle required for successful mobile storytelling. To involve Jeff Ritchie’s perspective, the app does a better job showcasing the constraints of mobile storytelling rather than highlighting the affordances.

The main constraint was the reliance on motivation. In order for this medium to be effective, the user must be motivated to participate and be willing to walk from point to point. Ritchie refers to this as “really nontrivial effort”, where the user is being asked a large amount by the author. Specifically for 7scenes, there is no motivation. The app allows access to each chapter of the story without actually being in the specified location. With this, the reader has almost no motivation to actually go to the locations. They still can to see the scene the author deemed important, but this aspect is likely not enough to warrant the extra effort.

After the usage of a flawed storytelling system, it is easy to imagine a superior one. Chapters that could only be accessed by location, hiding proceeding chapters, and interaction with the narrative would actualize the potential of mobile storytelling. This is a medium that has the ability to reward readers with gratifying and polished material, yet a competent platform is required.


2 thoughts on “Mobile Storytelling and the Requirement of Polish

  1. I think you make some excellent points about locative media. While the 7Scenes Historical Tour of UMD leaves much desired, it is very easy to imagine the vast and exciting possibilities that this field provides. As you began to touch upon, locative media provides new unique possibilities for story telling. I think a capital mistake of locative media is attempting to retrofit book-based stories into this format. This medium can only really shine if it used in a way that plays to its strengths. The mobile narrative should interact with the environment – if the reader travels a great length just for the sake of travel, the work becomes frustrating and tedious. By contrast, if the reader’s new location has a pivotal impact on the story, the experience can be incredibly rewarding. The Street Museum of London is an amazing concept example of locative media – as you walk around the streets of London, your phone acts as a window to the past, overlaying old images with your camera’s view. Unfortunately, like the 7Scenes tour, this experience could be made better through improved interfaces.

    Normally, when you read, the narrative comes to you, whether it is in a book or movie. In locative narratives, you must come to the story. This non-trivial effort requires, you, as the author, to be incredibly persuasive. In order to coax your reader to journey to the narrative instead of passively receiving it, you can utilize gamification and a pyramid of yes. A gamified story has game elements that entice the reader – Perhaps the reader get points or achievements for traveling to the next section of the story. The pyramid of yes is a technique that magicians use in their performances – get the reader to acquiesce to several small requests, and then they will be far more willing to agree to a large request, such as traveling a large distance. Once you have crossed this narrative value threshold, your story will take the reader on an incredible journey. The locative narrative is an incredibly powerful tool, still in its infancy. I look forward to the interactive, ergodic, and locative narratives of the future.


  2. I feel like we’re not being fair to 7scenes, or at least not Dr. Farman’s Historical UMD tour. While he would be the first to admit to admit that it lacks the narrative drive Ritchie talks about, it’s not designed to tell that kind of story. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the shortcomings of 7scenes, it’s just that I think we need to consider the affordances along with the constraints. Namely, the ability to turn a single-media space into a multiple media space where we can have audio, still images and video tagged to a location in a way that would be otherwise impossible. Building on these affordances is as important as identifying the constraints.


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